Watching the 2017 release of the Justice League was a trial because… well, just look at Superman’s face. It’s like they deepfaked a reel of leftover claymation stock footage. It’s like someone rubbed vaseline on a very specific section of the camera lens, and no amount of buff and shine could save it. It’s like Henry Cavill figured out Clark Kent’s “vibrate so you don’t show up in photographs” trick, but only used it around his mouth during filming. This is all you can look at every time he’s on camera, and it makes the Man of Steel into something akin to a horror movie monster—you’re just waiting for the guise to slip, for the Babadook to come sidling out and scratch over the screen in charcoal.
Which is why they’ve devoted an entire cut of the film to erasing this mistake.
I must admit that when they agreed to create an alternate version that preserved Superman’s face, the four hour runtime was not what I expected. But if you’re going to make an entirely new movie solely to preserve the integrity of Clark’s upper lip, you’ve got to give it a lead up, right?
This is why he doesn’t appear until roughly the two and a half-hour mark—a whole Star Wars prequel worth of movie—as a resurrected zombie. You need the tension, the build, you need to be terrified that this might happen all over again. That perhaps the Brothers Warner lied and this was their plan all along to fool you: Create a hashtag campaign (#ReleaseTheLipCut), harass strangers on the internet over your obsession for years, grouse as you buy your HBO Max subscription, heat up an unsatisfying frozen dinner, mix blue cocktails with names like The Lasso of Blue-th and Blue-ster Gold, all to have your hopes dashed across the Fortress of Solitude.
The wait hasn’t been for nothing, friends. Superman is here, unmarred by computer technicians and harrowing halls of time. He buttons some flannel in his childhood home. He hugs his mom and his fiancée (who has the world’s most obviously placed pregnancy test waiting back in her city loft). He thinks a lot about the conflicting messages given to him by two father figures. Then he dons a suit that will match his super boyfriend, and flies off to talk to said boyfriend’s butler-dad. Then he rushes off at butler-dad’s behest to help his meta-human meta-friends.
He arrives in the nick of time. He smiles. He rips a skull fragment (horn? antler?) from Steppenwolf’s head. He is the Superman we remember, and the one we deserve.
I suppose we could talk about the fact that, in order to get this cut, we are required to learn a lot about some smooth cubes that combine toward the purpose of ending the world. We could probably also talk about how Batman has a dream that this Superman will one day want to kill him because his fiancée will die in a very vague way. We could even talk about how this Lex Luthor really should not have shaved his head because it’s not doing him any favors, and looks almost as uncanny as Clark’s previously CGI’d upper lip—it was in the previous version of the film, but it doesn’t get any better to look at this time around. Or we could talk about the sheer volume of women who had to die in this movie while the only lingering female characters in the film are composed of the team’s Only Woman, three incomprehensible love interests who barely speak, and two moms, one of whom spends most of her time on screen being portrayed by a shape-shifting alien. (Yes, really.)
We should definitely talk about the fact that a side plot to Cyborg’s origin makes it clear that he has the ability to redistribute the entirety of Earth’s wealth, and that is not at all the focus of the story, for some unfathomable reason.
But we will not talk about these things. Instead, we will be grateful for the fact that we have been gifted with a Clark Kent whose face is whole and bright as a Kryptonian sunrise. (Wait… too soon? Maybe too soon on that joke. Sorry, Krypton. Sorry, Jor-El.)